Normally, I wouldn’t put two book reviews together, but it’s been a while since I posted and these two books belong together. At the suggestion of my father, I read these two books, Blue and its prequel Until Again by Lou Aronica, over the course of two days. And even if I weren’t making a conscious effort to do more of these…these are two books that I can’t let pass by without commenting on.
My father was first introduced to Aronica’s work through a Free Book Friday for the Nook, and as soon as he’d finished reading Blue, he urged me to do the same. I was a little more hesitant, my shelves already filled with books I hadn’t read yet and no time to pick up another one. But finally, as I started into book reviews and being serious about this side of my life, I finally took my father’s advice and had him LendMe the two books from his Nook.
I can’t say as I’ve ever been more pleased about a choice of reading material.
Aronica takes two very different worlds – the “real life” view of Connecticut and a family that’s falling apart, and the “fantasy” world of Tamarisk with a queen seated too young facing over a catastrophe too big – and meshes them together seamlessly. The narrator switches between Chris, an aimless man divorced (badly) from his wife and estranged from his daughter; Becky, Chris’ daughter who has more imagination than the next six people combined and is dealing with not only all the troubles that come with being a fourteen-year-old but also the remission of her leukemia; and Miea, the queen of Tamarisk by her early twenties and faced with the largest disaster her kingdom has faced in decades.
With so many plot lines, it seems like it would be easy to lose track of the narrative and what is happening where – but Aronica’s storytelling never lets you get lost. You wander with Chris, desperate to save his relationship with Becky even after his divorce sent a monkey wrench into its gears. We relive high school with Becky, who still after four years doesn’t understand what happened with her parents and just wants to make her way through her freshman year without remark. We mourn with Miea, as she grapples with the difficulties of being queen and making decisions she doesn’t – and can’t – entirely understand. And we flip between the three with ease.
And as the paths begin to intersect in ways that no one would have expected, it’s easy to sit in your armchair with a grin on your face, cheering them on every step of the way. I know that I did.
Until Again is a wonderful introduction to the world of Blue, taking us back four years in time to when Chris and his ex-wife Polly’s divorce first happened. It allows the reader to see Chris and Becky happy, before the strain tears them apart. We see the dynamic between Chris and Polly, and can understand all the better the choices and problems that they come up against in Blue. And seeing the origin of the Tamarisk stories as a way to keep Becky happy and optimistic through her leukemia – stories that Becky and her father made up each night on the edge of her bed – can easily spark memories of each reader’s own childhood, no matter how they spent it.
The fact that I personally sat down and devoured Blue whole in a matter of hours is testament to how superb the writing of this book is, and how well it draws the reader in and makes the world real in their mind. And though I can’t “darken” like Chris and Becky do in the book and find myself in one of my own fictitious worlds (or possibly not so fictitious…), I can certainly imagine how that might feel.
Definite five-star rating for both of these books. Must-read, on both counts.
Until again, Mr. Aronica. I’ll be waiting for your next book.
Until Again: ***** – Highest Recommendation
Blue: ***** – Highest Recommendation